Visual Art 5-25-2011

Of Pastries and Paintings: Mac-Groveland/Crocus Hill, St. Paul

Maggie Ryan Sandford continues her artists' guide to MN coffeehouse galleries with this breezy tour through alternative exhibition spots in St. Paul's Macalester-Groveland/Crocus Hill neighborhood

1Image courtesy of the artist's website:

When artists dream of success, they probably dream of showing at the Walker, the Met, the Tate, Musée National d’Art Moderne — not the java joint down the street. But on the road to the big-time, those little coffeehouse shows can be important stops along the way, providing a safe platform for artists to practice the tricks of their trade: how to produce enough work for a show, create a cohesive collection, price pieces, place them in the space, promote, and (most importantly) find an audience.

To help local artists navigate this process, we at decided to create a directory of sorts: a guide to the best of the many Twin Cities coffee shops, cafes, bars, and salons that double as gallery spaces. We will explore the Minnesota coffeehouse art scene on an ongoing basis, one neighborhood at a time. (Check the “related links” below to read up on the other neighborhoods we’ve covered in the series thus far.)

For this installment: Macalester-Groveland/Crocus Hill neigborhood, St. Paul


1622 Grand Ave, 651-698-3324

The ambiance: Hip, but in a mature way; a daytime hangout for punk-rockers, intellectuals, and punk-rock intellectuals.

The art: A wide variety of media and styles, from classic stained glass panels to unsettling avant garde oil paintings. Currently showing: Chuck Norwood’s skillfully shot (if rather traditional) nature photographs.

The stats:

  • Consistency of quality: ***** (of 5)
  • Funky Factor: *****
  • Classy Factor: ***1/2

Contact: Stephen, available at the shop, weekdays before 2 pm.

Hours: 7 am-10 pm, every day.

Do they take a commission? Yes, 10%

Who hangs the work? Artists have full reign, but Stephen reserves the right to re-hang pieces as he sees fit. Because, he says, he’s usually right. That is, of course, unless the artist has a particular artistic reason for hanging pieces in a particular way. He says artistic vision comes first.

Can you put nails in the walls? In some places, yes; they also have rails in spots, where you cannot.


569 Grand Ave, 651-698-0618

The ambiance: A simple, casual, neighborhood joint. The Grand Avenue location is less slick-looking than other Dunn Brothers’ in the cities, but still friendly and “cool.”

The art: Fairly tame and very professional – work is usually framed or otherwise intentionally mounted in some way. Currently showing: an ornately framed landscape painting by Joe Paquet, street scene photos by Logan Gill, arboreal photos by Al Gage, and a permanent, rotating selection of landscape photos by Chris Faust.

The stats:

  • Consistency of quality: **** (of 5)
  • Funky Factor: **1/2
  • Classy Factor: ***1/2

Contact: Doug, via the contact section at

Hours: Monday -Thursday: 6:30am-11pm, Friday – Saturday: 6:30am-12am, Sun: 7:30am-11pm

Do they take a commission? No.

Who hangs the work? The artists or the curator – either way.

Can you put nails in the walls? Yes.


475 Fairview Ave S, 651-699-1117

The ambiance: A cozy spot, cheerful in its simplicity, with bright orange walls and big windows to let the sun in. 

The art: Work must be family-friendly. Other than that, anything goes -a textile artist and a flower farmer are lined up for future shows. Art newbies take note: the shop curator, Stef Tupy, is willing and ready to help rookie artists get their work show-ready. Currently showing: the engaging, Frank Gaard-esque, line drawings of first-time exhibitor Zig Schuessler.

The stats:

  • Consistency of quality: **** (of 5)
  • Funky Factor: ***1/2
  • Classy Factor: ***1/2

Contact: Stef Tupy (aka “The tattooed blonde behind the counter,”) []

Hours: Monday -Thursday: 6am-10pm, Friday – Saturday: 6am-9pm, Sun: 7am-9pm

Do they take a commission? No.

Who hangs the work? The artists, with help from Stef.

Can you put nails in the walls? Yes, between the boards.


1518 Randolph Avenue, 651-699-7788

The ambiance: One of the most inviting coffee shops in the Twin Cities, with a very laid-back neighborhood feel: toys and found art collage the counter area, colorful tables in and out-of-doors cheerfully attract clientele year-round.

The art: Intentionally varied: the curator likes to alternate the styles and media from month to month, following up a selection of photography with some impressionistic watercolor, perhaps, or graphite drawings with abstract acrylic. Preference given to emerging artists, though the work should be framed, or otherwise ready for showing.

The stats:

  • Consistency of quality: ** (of 5)
  • Funky Factor: ****1/2
  • Classy Factor: ***

Contact: John Bradley, at Send examples of work. First-come/first-served, with exhibitions for the year starting every December.

Hours: Monday – Friday: 6am-10pm, Saturday: 7am-10pm, Sunday: 7am-9pm

Do they take a commission? No.

Who hangs the work? The artists, but John can help if need be.

Can you put nails in the walls? No, there are rails for installtion


490 Hamline Ave S, 651-698-0457

The ambiance: When the website subtitle of a coffee shop is “Good taste,” you know it’s a pretty classy joint. Cool, clean decor, clearly carefully chosen by someone with an eye for design.

The art: A variety of media and styles, all with a necessary hint of inoffensive hipness.

The stats:

  • Consistency of quality: **** (of 5)
  • Funky Factor: ***
  • Classy Factor: *****

Contact: The owner, Andrew, via Send examples of work.

Hours: Monday: 6am-4pm, Tuesday – Friday: 6am-8pm, Saturday – Sunday: 7am-8pm

Do they take a commission? Not currently

Who hangs the work? The artists, with approval of the manager

Can you put nails in the walls? Open for discussion


165 Western Avenue, 651-292-9816

The ambiance: With its high ceilings and brick walls, Nina’s looks more like a bustling salon-style cafe in a Paris train station than the quiet, beloved Selby-Dale hangout it is. The venue often hosts readings from its subterranean neighbor, Common Good Books.

The art: The only criteria for art shown at Nina’s is that it absolutely must be local – the greater the proximity to the Selby-Dale neighborhood, the better. Currently showing: meticulous and old-timey fictional maps by Jeff Nelson.

The stats:

  • Consistency of quality: **** (of 5)
  • Funky Factor: ***1/2
  • Classy Factor: ****1/2

Contact: Jevin, usually available on the store phone before 5:00 pm, or at

Hours: 6:30 a.m.-10p.m., every day

Do they take a commission? No.

Who hangs the work? Artists, with help from the café staff working at the time of installation.

Can you put nails in the walls? Yes.


1692 Grand Avenue, 651-690-3451

The ambiance: Small, quiet, and dark enough to feel like you’re in a moody kaffehaus, rather than a corporate chain. The clientele is largely comprised of Macalester students, especially late at night.

The art: Currently showing over a dozen bizarre mixed-media pieces by Danielle Antinella, who somehow manages to make cute animals and celebrity portraiture intriguingly grotesque.

The stats:

  • Consistency of quality: ***1/2 (of 5)
  • Funky Factor: **** (more so than other Tea Gardens, truly!)
  • Classy Factor: ***1/2

Contact: Cameron or Lauren, in the shop.

Hours: Sun-Thurs: 11a.m.-10p.m., Fri-Sat: 11a.m.-1a.m.

Do they take a commission? No

Who hangs the work? The artists

Can you put nails in the walls? Yes

But what about…?

Golden Thyme Coffee & Cafe? They don’t show art indoors, but do host a sidewalk art show during the Selby Avenue Jazz Fest in September.

Bravo Cafe and Bakery? They have their art already.

Coffee Bene? They have their art already, too.

Caribou at Grand and Snelling? Nope!

Amore Coffee? …The Grand Avenue location longer exists. (You can still visit their Smith Avenue site, though.) 

Know a gallery/coffee shop/restaurant/bar/laundromat that we missed?  Email tips to

Maggie Ryan Sandford

Maggie Ryan Sandford is a science journalist, fiction writer, and human behavior researcher specializing in the relationship between science and art. Her work has appeared in Slate, Smithsonian, mental_floss, McSweeney’s, onstage at the Guthrie, UCB, and People’s Improv Theaters, on and National Public Radio. She is currently at work on a book about dolphins and how weird they are. More on twitter (@Mandford) and at …   read more